Why Zetawar?

In my last post I promised to dig into the architecture of Zetawar. I'm still planning to do that, but before I get too deep in the technical weeds I thought it might be a good idea to explain why Zetawar exists.

The story begins earlier this year when I wanted to play a round of Weewar (an online turn based strategy game) with my wife. I hadn't played it in several years, but remembered it as a fun game and was looking for something turn based that wouldn't require us both to be available to play at exactly the same time. Unfortunately, I discovered EA had shut down Weewar. I also discovered another game, Elite Command, that suffered a similar fate. And while I don't blame either EA or the author of Elite Command for shutting them down — these things aren't free to maintain — it did seem like a shame that their respective player communities couldn't keep them running themselves.

That's when the idea for Zetawar was born. What if I made a similar web based game that was open source (Zetawar isn't yet, but it will be) and didn't require an application server? It would have some limitations due to the lack of a server side communication channel, but it would be something that players could invest in without worrying about a third party shutting it down.

So, I started writing it. Of course, once you start writing a game, it's impossible to resist trying to implement your favorite features, so Zetawar has a few extra goals beyond just being an open source, app server free, Weewar-like game.

First, it will have a first class bot interface. In college I enjoyed competing in programming competitions and I think programming AI bots that can play against each other is one of the most fun ways to do that. I also believe basing these contests on a fun game that students can enjoy playing with each other outside the programming competition can increase their interest and engagement.

Second, it's going to be as customizable as I can reasonably make it. Unit stats, terrain effects, tilesets, and even some of the game rules will be modifiable by players. This will allow players to help me with things like balancing unit stats and should keep the game interesting for a long time. It will also allow the game to serve as a laboratory of sorts for people interested in designing similar games. Want to make your own tactical strategy game? Prototype it first in Zetawar!

Third, Zetawar is currently and will continue to be written in ClojureScript. ClojureScript is the most enjoyable language I've found for writing web applications, and I want to both continue working with it and promote its adoption. Hopefully Zetawar can serve as a fun example people can point to when they talk about things written in ClojureScript and, once it's open sourced, can be an interesting code base for other ClojureScript enthusiasts to learn from and contribute to.

So that's what I'm hoping to accomplish with Zetawar. If any of those goals interest you, please follow @ZetawarGame to keep updated on how things are progressing, and if you have any feedback either send me a tweet or fill out the feedback form.